EI vs. AI

Our reality today has been propelled into a realm of possibilities, solutions and innovations we could never have imagined if it weren’t for artificial intelligence. AI helps us immensely improve our productivity and quality of work. While the emergence and innovations accompanied with AI opens many doors leading us forward, it is necessary to emphasize the integral importance and potential of our EI, emotional intelligence, as well. The mutual emphasis for both intelligences working together, I believe, results in a win-win for organizations and individuals alike.

Emotional intelligence can, indeed, go a long way in determining one’s success. We all can say that, from our own experiences, which are mixed compositions of failure, humiliation, disappointment, fear, anxiety as well as opportunity, success, growth, and moments of motivation and encouragement. At some point, realization sets in that there is no perfect formula or set path for one’s success or happiness. At this point of realization, emotional intelligence becomes a fundamental component and utility which helps us to recognize our unique strengths and abilities and to harness them into productive work that is mutually beneficial for both the individual’s success in their career and in quality of life.

Although emotional intelligence plays a key role in an individual’s success or failure, there is no standard to measure it. What one may consider success, another may consider failure or unimportant. The contrived “standard for success” can exert indirect pressure or influence on individuals who, consequently, tend to follow a societal driven path to attain it only to find themselves unfulfilled once they do. It is important to have role models to look at for inspiration and guidance. The problem starts when we lose who we are as individuals from following too closely in someone else’s footsteps and we lose identity in this process. Not all of us are meant to be doctors, scientists, lawyers or CEOs. However, each of these occupations cannot be successful without the help of others.

Emotional intelligence starts with our intuition or inner-truths, which emerges when we become focused on our subconscious and accept our vulnerability along with our strengths. Our subconscious transmits stored information and intuitive responses when faced with a new challenge or situation. A deeper introspection can help lead us to find new solutions, processes and ideas that will not only lead the individual to success but benefit the world around them as well.

A  closer observation may reveal that most leaders, inventors, innovators and revolutionary thinkers are the individuals who didn’t look outward at others for guidance but looked deep within. This phenomenon is well represented in management through the Johari’s Window, which splits the human mind into four quadrants, one of which is unknown to self and unknown to others. Human potential is a very powerful tool if explored, understood, and channelized. It can be the most potent weapon if comprehended by the individual. Men and women who have the requisite emotional intelligence become our leaders who we look to for guidance.

Within an organizational framework, individuals may operate independently, however, as a team they become interdependent individuals. This is precisely where the need of emotional intelligence in organizations becomes essential. It helps boost one’s self-awareness, selfcontrol, motivation, empathy, and social skills, all of which help one become better leaders. While artificial intelligence continues to innovate and push our world to greater heights and new solutions, it will never replace the importance and value of its counterpart: emotional intelligence. After all, we would not have AI if it weren’t for EI!



The Third Eye (aka: Sakthi Venkatraman)

Manage or Be Managed

Imagine having the minds of over two-hundred robust lawyers and technical engineers working together in a high-intensity, fast-pace office, around-the-clock, juggling dozens of extremely sensitive projects, corresponding with clients and outside counsels from all over the globe. Now imagine being in charge of managing all of them. This is my reality. This is what I do every day, and I absolutely love it.

While my title is “Managing Director,” I like to think of myself as a “Coach.” Coaching people is one of the most satisfying, rewarding and humbling jobs you can have. When you see the people you’ve helped coach grow and achieve their goals, it makes the job more than worth it, but really mean something more than just a job that pays the bills. Twenty years of experience in outsourcing should be a sufficient testament to this. Working with clients and people from all over the world, I am able to do what I love: coaching talented, smart and driven individuals to excel on a global scale. For me, working with Cobra is the incredible experience and opportunity to work with a team (in the true sense of the word) of passionate, diverse people who have serious fun with a unique purpose and common goal of making a positive impact on the lives and world around us. When you work in a culture of talented and skilled people who support and respect one another, it makes my job and what I love to do easy and fun, but most of all, exciting.
At Cobra, we don’t compare ourselves to anyone else. If eyes tried to talk instead of doing their job of seeing, they probably wouldn’t have a lot to say and you’d bump into a lot of things. Like the functions of eyes to the overall utility of the human body; each and every individual at Cobra has a purpose that utilizes their personal strengths and skills allowing the Cobra unit, as a whole, to operate on all cylinders, full-speed ahead. We focus on our own passions and talents, being the best in what we do. This makes Cobra, as a whole, the best it can be.
Transparency, integrity, and respect for one another are at the core of our values and culture. Personal talents and strengths are identified, nurtured and encouraged. We strongly believe in collaboration with the entire Cobra team; especially when you have some of the youngest, most innovative and creative minds coming together under one roof. My job is to take and grow these minds, channeling their energies into constructive, productive objectives that, while benefitting Cobra and its clients, also develop their careers and personal character.

Second life: At Cobra, we celebrate and respect that we only have one life to live; so we better live it to the fullest. It is my job to ensure a happy, productive and understanding work-place; that the team stays driven and motivated. People come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, cultures, family dynamics and beliefs. We more than understand that we are all different and special in our own way and celebrate these differences! We respect each other and take pride in who we are and what we do.

We play to win: As stated earlier, we are all here for a unique purpose; we want to excel and exceed expectations, not just for “the client,” but also at individual capacities. Our competition is within ourselves; we have to strive each and every day to be better, to be the best self we can. Whether we’re working on a document review or on app development, contracts management or mergers & acquisition, system integration or training, data security or information security, or practicing for a company talent show; what makes us come together as a team is our shared belief to do the best we can at whatever we do . I make sure our team understands these organizational objectives, continually setting higher standards for success not just for Cobra, but for the legal tech industry and as a society. Almost all of our project and senior managers have been with the Cobra team an entire decade, establishing and evolving the Cobra system into the best in our industry.

Learning is an ongoing, unceasing process. The shared hunger of the Cobra team to experience and learn new things allow us to collaborate, grow and innovate together. The motivated exploration into new possibilities, services and technologies come naturally to us. We strive for innovation, to enhance the way of life for people, one client at a time. You cannot replace the human-element; caring, understanding, listening and respect are invaluable in life and at work. We work together, we learn together, we grow together, we win together: It’s about encouraging each other’s talents aimed at a common goal. Cobra is a 99% diverse organization, with 80% women, one of which is our CEO, Candice Hunter Corby. How well the team is able to work together is a testament in itself, we don’t follow generalized, typical procedures; we create our team based on who we need and the best person for the job. We respect each other and value each other. Everyone is a star here, if not a super star in their own right. Living and working from Cobra’s India office, I would never have guessed that people from Austin, Texas and Chennai, India would be so similar! People first; any day, anywhere, any time. Period! I remember once while visiting one of our clients, the client asked me: “How is Cobra different?” I responded, “How are we not?” Five years later, we maintained a great relationship working with the same client, so much so that she came to India to visit our offices in Chennai. It was my turn to ask her the same question: “So, what do you believe is different about Cobra?” Her response was the same mine had been five years before. #WhoIsCobra? Well, I guess you’ll just have to find out for yourself!



The Third Eye (aka: Sakthi Venkatraman)

Recruiting and Retaining the Best Legal Talent in the World

From Cobra’s inception in 2007, its commitment and careful attention to building the best team has been the foundation of the company’s success and standing within the legal industry. Twelve years later, in a highly competitive alternative legal services provider market, Cobra’s team continues to deliver and delight its clients. As a result, Cobra in 2019 has more than doubled in size and finding and keeping a great staff is even more critical.

Cobra’s team is comprised of highly-motivated, dedicated and talented individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Cobra’s team of attorneys, 70% of whom are women, are carefully chosen from the top law schools. Nearly 10% of the team has been with Cobra for over a decade and 30% have been with Cobra for at least 5 years. We posed some questions to our colleagues Sakthivel Venkatraman, Managing Director – India and Vice President of Global Administration, and Nithya Chandar, Senior General Manager – Human Resources, about how we build the best team in the business

How do you identify the right person for Cobra? What are you looking for in a candidate?

We started out with a very specific hiring process designed to find people who would thrive in our culture, and that process has evolved over the twelve years we have been serving our clients (as the LPO industry has matured and we have faced more competition for great candidates.)

Our first step is, of course, screening. We are always looking for lawyers with a drive for providing excellence and value for our clients, with a strong academic and/or work background. We look for lawyers at all experience levels as we understand not every job requires decades of experience, but often do have the need for deep expertise. Cobra highly values in-house legal experience as many of our clients are in-house counsel at large companies. Even at the very early stages, we rely heavily on recommendations and welcome candidates who are already known to and respected by someone already employed by Cobra.

Typically, resumes are screened for qualification in law from recognized universities. Candidates must be graduates of an accredited 3- or 5-year law program. We also look at candidates who are in their final academic year and consider their applications subject to their clearing final exams. Although we encourage candidates with work experience, it is not mandatory to have held a legal position to be considered for a Cobra role.

Once the initial screening is done, the applicants take a test modeled on the LSAT that tests their general and legal aptitude, research and writing skills. In addition to the online test, the candidates are also put through a brief assignment in contract management. The candidates who clear the tests proceed to the next stage in the recruitment cycle, which is the personal interview. Naturally, we carefully verify credentials (academic and past work experience) of each candidate who makes it to the interview stage.

Each candidate shortlisted through our hiring tests appears before a panel of three Cobra team members for an interactive interview. The candidate is encouraged to speak openly about background, goals, and why they are interested in joining Cobra. This interaction, though brief, is nevertheless valuable as it gives the panel members insight into the candidate’s overall skills and potential. Quintessentially, the right candidate for Cobra is someone who reflects a positive outlook and has high core values. The panel members, while seeking the best people for Cobra, care about helping these young lawyers make appropriate career choices – in other words, we consider the panel interview to be more than just a recruitment exercise. We are growing and taking on very large projects. That means speed counts in choosing and on-boarding new attorneys.

How do you tackle that, especially when you may be recruiting, selecting and training lots of people at one time?

You have hit on a very timely point. We are at a crucial juncture for Cobra, with so much growth so quickly. But – that is what our human resources team has been anticipating and we are ready! Witnessing Cobra’s phenomenal growth in size and capacity has been the most exciting phase for Cobra’s senior staff who have been with the company since its inception. Our long-standing relationships with law schools, along with referrals from current team members, have made it possible to onboard new attorneys quickly. The law schools extend to us a helping hand in organizing campus tests. This allows large numbers of students to take the tests at one time. Our strong rapport with the law schools makes it possible for us to translate our resource requirements to them easily, and they help us reach out to a large student pool, including their alumni. We are especially proud of our training for new hires, as we seek to introduce many new lawyers at one time to the LPO industry. We have developed general training modules on the fundamentals of document review, contract management, and legal research. Our project managers work with clients and their outside counsel and offer customized modules for particular matter requirements. The training is extensive but compressed into an onboarding period – we find that works well, because while their school experiences and the training we offer are essential to success, for most lawyers around the world (really, for most professions) the best possible way to learn is on-the-job with close oversight and supervision.

Give us an example of a recent recruiting experience that went well, and why?

During our recent experience with campus hiring, we were able to look at a wide scope of law schools and identify abundant talent for hire. There is great potential in this generation of graduates, as they possess technical skills and are much faster adapting to the work and the technology, we use than our recruits from a decade ago. Recently we were able to hire an attorney with over twenty years of experience in a matter of weeks – she was referred to us by one of our trusted project manager attorneys who understood our requirements and expectations. That’s the power of referrals.

People seem to stick with Cobra once they start. What explains Cobra’s excellent retention rate for its attorneys and staff?

Cobra’s leadership team believes in investing in people and building and mentoring them to higher positions within the organization. The senior attorneys and management team have all completed a decade or more at Cobra. This, in itself, is a testament to their strong faith in and an unrelenting commitment to Cobra. But it isn’t just at the senior level. Cobra believes in an all-encompassing work culture where all of its people are given due attention and care. First and foremost, we expect and enforce respect in the workplace. For example, Cobra regularly spearheads sessions on harassment and a respectful workplace. We do charity work together – Cobra supports the cause of differently-abled citizens, organizing sports meets and events for them. As a group, Cobra’s team members show a great inclination to give back to society in some way and strive to be responsible global citizens. Another thing I’ll mention is the internal effort to cross-train. Several training plans and programs are initiated by senior team members each month, which are great platforms for knowledge exchange.

What are the first six months like in the life of a new Cobra attorney?

All new hires complete the joining formalities, which include signed offer letters, non-disclosure agreements (we take our clients’ security and confidential information extremely seriously) and forms for technology access. Once this is complete, the new employees are put through a pretty typical human resources orientation, consisting of an overview about Cobra, its vision, policies and procedures, and information security awareness training. During the first six months, these new hires are acquainted with our corporate culture, sharpen their communication skills and are trained for other lines of work at Cobra. We offer training modules geared towards the type of work the new hires will be doing, including client-specific training.

What advice would you have for attorneys seeking to work for Cobra, or for any so-called
“alternative legal service provider”? What are the benefits? What are the disadvantages, if
any, that they should consider?

Cobra offers a solid training platform for what we call “freshers” who want to explore the corporate legal world. This kind of alternative career is a paradigm shift in the legal arena, as it opens doors for law graduates who do not want to work in courtrooms and are looking for something unique and rewarding. Cobra hires full-time and part-time employees and contractors depending on the client’s or Cobra’s needs. However, no matter what type of engagement with Cobra, Cobra treats all of its employees and partners as part of the Cobra team.